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LATEST REVIEWS
LION KING, THE (2019)
"The Imagination Sleeps Tonight"
2 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "I don’t know if McDonald’s is doing any sort of promotional tie-in with “The Lion King,” Disney’s hugely hyped remake of their 1994 animated blockbuster but if there is a Happy Meal involved, they should make the box in the shape of an accountant’s briefcase. After all, they are the only group of people who could conceivably come out of the film feeling genuinely happy and that is simply because of the enormous sums of money that their clients will presumably reap in the wake of its almost-certain box-office success. For everyone else, it will prove to be one of the most mystifying experiences that they will have at the multiplex this summer. Here is a film that has marshaled together a number of immensely talented people, given them a budget larger than the annual GNP of entire small nations and gotten nothing in return but a half-hearted and largely lifeless retread that fails to find its own footing and instead sticks so closely to the source material that it almost feels like the family entertainment equivalent of Gus van Sant’s shot-for-shot remake of “Psycho.”" (more)
STARE
"This isn't that hard."
2 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: I am not one to yell at the screen during any sort of movie, but I've seldom seen one that merits asking just what the heck is WRONG with these people to quite such an extent. I mean, people's eyeballs are exploding and you know what to do to make that not happen, and it just involves not doing something. This isn't a difficult choice!" (more)
DREADOUT
"Not much in this haunted apartment."
1 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: "DreadOut" is based upon a survival horror video game, and while it's perhaps not the least ambitious example of adapting the action from that medium into film, it certainly does neither medium any favors, transposing the action from one onto another without doing much to take advantage of what film does better than games. It tries to make up for a thin story by being incredibly frantic, but never takes advantage of the visible potential." (more)
S HE
"Grind your heel into the oppressor!"
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: I don't know exactly what I expected of "SHe", and truth be told I'm not exactly sure what I got. It's a striking stop-motion film, the sort of abstracted, found-object stop-motion that is almost entirely confined to short subjects, only done as a feature and taking a sharp turn from the delight one might feel upon seeing colorful, imaginative stills from it almost from the get-go. You've probably never seen anything like it, and it can be fascinatingly tricky to process." (more)
WE ARE LITTLE ZOMBIES
"There really is no one way to grieve!"
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: "We Are Little Zombies" is the sort of movie that needs four kids for its story but only has enough attention for a couple of them, with most of that going to the one most designed to get on a person's nerves. That's not always ideal, to be honest, but it is something that a person can get used to over a couple hours, especially when the filmmakers are committed to being the right sort of creative and energetic. Director Makoto Nagahisa attacks grief and the increasingly self-aware people trying to deal with it in a way that may be a lot for people multiple times the age of its 13-year-old heroes, but even they will likely wind up impressed." (more)
LION KING, THE (2019)
"In the photorealistic jungle, the photorealistic lion sleeps tonight"
4 stars
alejandroariera says... "Let us immediately address the elephant on the room. A beat-by-beat, shot-by-shot photo realistic remake of “The Lion King” is as unnecessary as Gus Van Sant’s shot-by-shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” More so, given that Disney released an improved version of the 1991 animation classic on IMAX on 2002, followed by an equally successful 3D release on 2011. And, let us not forget that after being tested at Minneapolis’ Orpheum Theatre in 1997, the daring theater adaptation directed by Julie Taymor debuted later that year on Broadway where it went on to win more than a dozen Tonys and is still going strong not only there but around the world. Talk about milking a cash cow. Then there is Disney’s financially successful strategy of cannibalizing its back catalogue with live action or photorealistic versions of its entire back catalogue (the delightful “Zootopia” may actually be the last original films to come out of their animation studios). This year alone has seen back to back remakes of “Dumbo” and “Aladdin.” And yet, I thoroughly enjoyed this new version of “The Lion King.” Not only is it as entertaining and emotional as the original film directed by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff. Director Jon Favreau and scriptwriter Jeff Nathanson have elevated the material by tapping into and drawing out the original’s Shakespearean and mythical undertones." (more)
DARLIN'
"Perhaps not spun far enough off from its predecessors."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: "Darlin'" is a weird one, strange enough to make me wonder if it would play better or worse if I'd seen the previous films in this somewhat loose series. You don't actually need "Offspring" or "The Woman" to make sense of it, but even so, it's not hard to sense that something isn't quite right here, like it would be a stronger movie if it were more free to be entirely its own thing or a more direct continuation." (more)
ASTRONAUT (2019)
"Richard Dreyfuss still yearns for space."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: There are times when I lament modestly-scaled movies being lucky to get a blip of a release in theaters as they head to the small screen, and there are other times when the likely-small theatrical release they will receive alongside their on-demand premieres seems like a nice little bonus. "Astronaut" falls into the latter category, pleasantly intimate but losing little when played for a crowd." (more)
WHITE STORM 2: DRUG LORDS, THE
"Worth sitting through to get to the insane car chase."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "As much as I liked "The White Storm" when I saw it in 2014, I didn't know it was successful enough to become a crime-movie brand, in that apparently any movie about former allies turned enemies in the drug trade could wind up released under that banner. That's what this film is - a similar outline with new characters that has to work to reach the same melodramatic highs, although there's no arguing against the action when the gloves come completely off." (more)
VIVARIUM
"if nothing else, a unique suburban hell."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: The festival's second movie featuring the pairing of Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg in as many nights is even stranger than "The Art of Self-Defense" with some of the same satirical ambitions, although that seems more of a gateway to weird things than the point of the exercise here. Weird wins almost every battle with incisive here, and there are definite pleasures in that, although that makes the movie even more not-for-everyone." (more)

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